Review: Then Again

Recap: I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Diane Keaton is one of the most iconic actresses of the last 50 years. She set the bar high in Annie Hall and The Godfather and has continued to make great movies in her later years, including The First Wives Club and Something’s Gotta Give. So when I decided to read her memoir, I couldn’t wait to read about her experiences in those films. As a reader, I got glimpses into those moments — like the smallest bit of acknowledgment she received from Marlon Brando and her relationships with Woody Allen, Warren Beatty and Al Pacino. But it wasn’t enough.

As the book went on, it became clear that writing this memoir must have been a cathartic experience for Keaton, who wrote a lot about the loss of her parents to cancer and Alzheimer’s and the adoption of her children at the age of 50. Don’t get me wrong; the way she writes about her family is beautiful and descriptive. (By the end I knew the names of all her siblings.) But it wasn’t what I expected or necessarily wanted to learn more about in the memoir.

Analysis: Keaton’s nonchalance about her acting and career comes off as modest, which is mostly cute and refreshing, if not slightly self-depracating. While I can understand her disbelief over making it to where she is, it’s still hard for me to believe at this point that she doesn’t think she’s a great actress. Maybe if she had included more about her acting experiences, I would better understand how she feels about them and how she sees herself.

That said, there is something to be said about the interesting format in which she chose to tell her story. She includes entries from her mother’s journal, letters written between her mother and herself, and letters she has begun to write to her own children. At times the format is confusing. It’s difficult to keep up with whose voice we’re reading from — hers or her mother’s. But as annoying as it is to hear so much from her mother’s point of view, it does help to further explore and explain Keaton’s upbringing and her relationship with her mother.

Get Then Again in paperback for $13.51.

Or get it on your Kindle for $11.99.

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Latest ‘Fifty Shades’ Novel, ‘Grey,’ Released, Already a Bestseller

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 11.49.53 AMHappy birthday, Christian Grey! And happy day to fans of the Fifty Shades of Grey series, who already got their hands on the latest novel in the series, GreyThe novel was released today, in honor of the main character Christian Grey’s birthday.

But before the clock struck midnight, Grey was already a bestseller. According to Entertainment Weekly, preorders helped it shoot to the top of the Barnes and Noble and Amazon bestseller lists.

But just because it’s a bestseller doesn’t necessarily mean the book is that great — as we all know. While the prose of E L James has been criticized in the past, it seems her writing hasn’t gotten much better this time around, according to the tweets copied on US Weekly.

So will you be reading it?

Get Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian in paperback for $9.89.

Or on your Kindle for $7.99.

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Review: A Letter To My Mom

Recap: From those who brought you A Letter To My Cat and A Letter To My Dog now comes A Letter To My Mom. I have not read Cat or Dog, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the latest in the series, A Letter To My Mom, is probably the best. Just in time for Mother’s Day, the book is a compilation of letters written by men and women — both young and old, famous and not — to their mothers.

Some letters are funny, like the one penned by singer Josh Groban. Some are sentimental, particularly the few letters written to deceased mothers, in which the children say all the things they never got to say when their mothers were still alive. Others tell stories, and a few just give thanks. But they are all full of feels. This compilation made me want to do nothing more than a write a letter to my own mother, thanking her for being so wonderful and telling her how much I respect and appreciate her, even when it seems like I don’t. There were several letters like that, too — ones that were more apologies than anything else.

Some of the letters told hard-to-believe stories of courage — like the mother who saved her children from her abusive husband by moving out in the middle of the night or the mother who threw herself in front of a car to save her children’s life, and wound up paralyzing herself. There are some sweet stories too, like the story of the mother who started a cupcake shop with her daughter. All of them great, all of them meaningful, all of them interesting to read.

Analysis: You don’t always think about the impact your mother has had on your life. On birthdays and Mother’s Day, yes, but other than that, it doesn’t come up much. Reading this book had me thinking about my mother constantly, all that she’s done for me, how much she cares, how strong she is. A good book forces you to reflect on your own life and think about its deeper meanings. This book does exactly that.

And I loved that the letters came from all people of all different walks of life. In the back were short biographies of each letter’s writer, a who’s who of talented celebrities and non-celebrities. Many of them were excellent writers, which surprised me until I realized most of them are writers, bloggers, or freelancers for a living. At first, I thought it was biased to select mostly writers’ letters in this book. But I then decided it was wise. It takes a good writer to put what their feeling into words and a great writer to go as deeply personal as one must do when writing about mothers. This is the perfect gift for any mother, and a must-read for everyone else.

Get A Letter to My Mom in hardcover for $16.19.

Or on your Kindle for $9.99.

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Miniseries vs. Book: The Casual Vacancy

Upon finally getting around to reading The Casual Vacancy (aka the first book J.K. Rowling wrote after the Harry Potter series ended), I had so many thoughts and feelings. Primarily: this book is a lot better than I expected it to be, based on what I’d heard and the criticism I’d read. Also: I can’t wait to see how this is adapted for the screen in the BBC miniseries of the same name.

The story revolves around the residents of a small British village called Pagford. Barry Fairbrother, a member of the village’s council, is a friend to everyone and a general do-gooder. But when he suddenly, tragically dies, the casual vacancy on the council becomes a not-so-casual vacancy for the rest of town.

With each section of the book, more and more characters unravel as Howard and Shirley Mollison’s son, Miles, prepares to run for Fairbrother’s seat — as well as Simon Price and Colin Wall. But each person running has their own secrets — secrets which are subsequently spilled online, posted anonymously by their very own children, who happen to despise them.

There are far too many characters to name, too many relationships to get into and too many domino-effect casualties to mention. But I enjoyed it. As she did in the Harry Potter novels, Rowling continued her theme of children vs. adults (and the children generally winning). Plus, the interconnectedness of the characters reminded me of other stories that stem from the British mainland (Love Actually, anyone?). In the end, the best characters were crushed.

A lot was changed for the TV adaptation. Those who disliked the book will likely tell you the series was far superior. Those who were fans of the book will tell you the series was awful. I’m here to tell you the series wasn’t awful but it was far less grim than the novel.

The novel is dark and twisty, much like the end of the Harry Potter series. I thought each character was an awful person, and the end was truly tragic and morbid. That, I believe, is the reason that producers made the series less severe. Of the two deaths at the end of the novel, only one dies in the show. I suppose all that death would have been too much for the average viewer.

Most of the other changes were due to time restrictions, I’m sure. The series was three hours, but certainly could have used a fourth. I was upset that one of the book’s characters was left out entirely and that some of the big “meeting” and “party” scenes were combined. The series also added extra relationships between characters. For example, Barry Fairbrother was an uncle to some of the kids in the show and a half-brother to another character. These relationships were never established in the book.

On some level, both the series and novel may seem as though they have no “point.” But it seems to me that any vacancy is anything but casual, and that’s what should keep readers and viewers on their toes.

Get The Casual Vacancy in paperback for $14.23.

Or get it on your Kindle for $8.99.

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EL James to Release New ‘Fifty Shades’ Book

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 11.49.53 AMYou thought it was a trilogy too, right? Well, we were wrong.

According to her Instagram account, bestselling erotica author EL James has more in store for her millions of readers with yet another Fifty Shades novel due to be released in — get this! — just a few weeks! She’s pulling a literary Beyonce, dropping the new novel with virtually no notice!

The novel will tell the story of Christian Grey and Ana from Christian’s point of view. According to USA Today, this idea of a trilogy companion novel written from a different character’s perspective is becoming common practice these days, as Veronica Roth also wrote one for the Divergent series and Stephanie Meyer wrote one for the Twilight series.

The release is set for June 18, Christian Grey’s birthday. Happy birthday, Christian Grey, and happy June to the rest of the literary world!

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Reese Witherspoon to Voice ‘Mockingbird’ Sequel Audiobook

As if the last year wasn’t busy enough for Academy Award-winning actress Reese Witherspoon (Wild, Gone Girl), she’s taking on another big…well…undertaking.

According to Entertainment Weekly, she’s voicing the audiobook version of Harper Lee’s new novel Go Set a Watchman, the long-awaited follow-up to her classic To Kill a Mockingbird. The novel will follow a grown-up Scout. And Reese Witherspoon couldn’t be more honored to deliver the story through her voice, as Andrea Towers explains:

Witherspoon told USA Today that, “as a Southerner, it is an honor and a privilege to give voice to the Southern characters who inspired by childhood love of reading, Scout and Atticus Finch.” The Oscar-winning star added that she is “eager for readers to be transported to a pivotal time in American history in the manner that only Lee’s gorgeous prose can deliver.”

Go Set a Watchman is due to be released in print and audiobook on July 14th.

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Dr. Seuss Museum in the Works

In case his books and the movies based on them didn’t do enough to immerse you in his world, there will soon be a Dr. Seuss museum opening.

According to Entertainment Weekly, The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum will open in Springfield, Massachusetts in June 2016. The museum honor Dr. Seuss — real name: Theodor Seuss Geisel — allowing visitors to experience “a series of environments that replicate scenes from [his] imagination and encounter life-sized three-dimensional characters and places from the books.”

Who’s making plans to go …(I mean besides me)?

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